Recent reports out of Brazil over trade access issues associated with the use, or mis-use of beta agonist growth promotants have gained greater significance as Australia heads towards a formal registration application process for a similar product for use in beef cattle.
Brazilian media reports last week suggested some stakeholders in the country’s beef processing industry were growing increasingly concerned that the misuse of ractopamine may threaten the industry's current and future export sales.
At least eight of Brazil’s export markets currently prohibit the importation of beta agonist-treated beef, the Valor Economico newspaper reported.
Sale of the additive for use in cattle was temporarily suspended in Brazil in November, but evidence of it was found in beef product shipments to Russia in April, causing a flare-up between the countries and temporary suspensions imposed by Russia on Brazilian beef.
In recent years a growing number of importers of Brazilian beef have formally prohibited the use of ractopamine, including Russia, the European Union, China, Iran, Egypt, Chile, Belarus and Kazakhstan. These markets accounted for nearly half of Brazil's beef export revenue in 2012, which totalled $5.8 billion, according to Brazil's beef processors and exporters association, Abiec.
Abiec says it isn't against any technology that can bring productivity gains to Brazilian agribusiness, but believes major gains can be had using technology that doesn't involve beta agonist growth enhancers.
The association suggested there were weak points in the sales process of veterinary medicine in Brazil, with a lack of clarity over how all additives are tested and registered by the state, and a lack of accountability by the private sector to curb improper sales and use.
The Ministry of Agriculture said imported stocks of ractopamine were under surveillance and that it was watching out for smuggling or black market trade. Ractopamine is permitted for use in pigs in Brazil.
US website Meatingplace.com said use of ractopamine in cattle in Brazil was approved in late 2011 by the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture, however the approval was quickly met with challenges by the EU's directorate-general for health and consumers (DG Sanco), which asked Brazil to create a national system segregating cattle and beef destined for the EU, to prove it wasn't from animals receiving the compound.
The Brazilian government made an informal agreement with additive manufacturers in July 2012, having them suspend sales until a segregation plan could be submitted to the EU in August. That deadline wasn't met, and a manufacturer began selling its product in Brazil.
The Ministry of Agriculture then suspended the import and marketing of the beta-agonists, Meatingplace.com said.
The cattle segregation plan, being developed by Brazil's Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock (CNA), is said to be in its final stages and should be delivered to the Ministry of Agriculture this month.
After the ministry evaluates the plan, which could help formalise additive-free beef sales to other export markets, it will re-permit the sale of beta-agonists in Brazilian beef, it said.
- See Beef Central’s earlier report on the current application process for the use of the beta agonist, Zilmax in Australia,"Beta agonist registration push could divide industry."